Jinarajadasa, Curuppumullage

Jinarajadasa, Curuppumullage (1875-1953). Fourth President of the Theosophical Society.

Jinarajadasa was born in Sri Lanka on December 16, 1875, one month after the Theosophical Society was founded. His parents were Buddhists and he was raised as such. In 1886 the prominent Theosophical worker Charles Leadbeater visited Sri Lanka in connection with Buddhist education there and met Jinarajadasa. At the age of thirteen he was taken to England by Leadbeater and after a period of private education went up to St. John’s College, Cambridge, and in 1900 graduated in Sanskrit and Philology. After graduation, Jinarajadasa returned to Sri Lanka and accepted an appointment as vice principal of Ananda College (1900-01). He joined the Theosophical Society on March 14, 1903, and worked energetically for the Society in Sri Lanka until, at the request of Annie Besant, then international president of the Theosophical Society, he spent two years in Italy on Theosophical work, during which time he attended the University of Pavia for post-graduate study. After his time in Italy, he commenced a period of international lecturing for the Theosophical Society, which continued until the outbreak of war in 1939.

Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa

Jinarajadasa was married in 1916 to Dorothy M. Graham who was a prominent worker for the Theosophical Society, a Justice of the Peace for Madras, and founded the Women’s Indian Association in 1917.

Jinarajadasa held many positions in the Theosophical Society, including vice president, 1921-28; head of the Manor in Sydney, Australia, 1934; and director of the Adyar Library, 1930-32. In 1935 he became Outer Head of the Esoteric School of Theosophy.

In 1945 Jinarajadasa was nominated for the position of President of the Theosophical Society and was elected unopposed, taking office on February 17, 1946. The Adyar headquarters was then in a state of disrepair because it had been occupied by the English Royal Air Force during World War II and because of the years of neglect caused by the war. Jinarajadasa drew around himself a committed band of workers, and under his leadership the estate rapidly regained its former beauty. In spite of poor health, he threw himself into the task of reconstructing the Theosophical Society in those countries that had suffered badly from the devastation of war, particularly in Europe. A special conference was held in Geneva, with nineteen sections represented, to aid the revival of the Lodges. In 1949 Jinarajadasa started the School of the Wisdom at the Adyar headquarters, both to offer members more advanced training in Theosophy and to fit them for work in their own districts. 

Jinarajadasa was noted for his extensive traveling and lecturing on behalf of the Theosophical Society. His fluency in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese enabled him to promote Theosophy in many countries; and he was, undoubtedly, instrumental in bringing about the revival of Theosophical work after the end of World War II. He was that unusual combination: a mystic with a strong scientific inclination. He was able to go to the essence of any thesis or theory and present it in clear, easily understood terms. Throughout his life, he kept in close touch with current affairs and scientific discoveries, thus bringing to his Theosophical work a freshness of presentation that endeared him to his audiences.

By 1953, Jinarajadasa had completed his seven year term as president and, because of poor health, he declined to be re-nominated; and after installing his successor, N. Sri Ram, he embarked on what was to be his final journey. Although his health was the cause of much anxiety, he insisted on keeping a promise to visit America; and it was there that he passed out of this life on June 18, 1953. His body was cremated; and during the American presidency of John Algeo, a box of Jinarajadasa’s ashes was discovered in a filing cabinet in the American headquarters at Olcott, Wheaton, Illinois. Some of those ashes were deposited in a new Garden of Remembrance at Olcott, and the rest were sent to Adyar, India, to be deposited there.

To those who knew him, Jinarajadasa was a complex personality who presented different facets of himself according to circumstances. At times he could be absorbed in some mystic realm of his own and at such times appear brusque yet at other times warm and sympathetic. He wrote a great deal, both prose and poetry, and in 1913 he was awarded the T. Subba Row Medal for his contribution to Theosophical literature.

Jinarajadasa’s published works include: Christ and Buddha, 1908; In His Name, 1913; Theosophy and Modern Thought, 1914; How We Remember Our Past Lives, 1915; The Nature of Mysticism, 1917; Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, First Series, 1919; First Principles of Theosophy, 1921; The Early Teachings of the Masters, 1923; Did Madame Blavatsky Forge the Mahatma Letters?, 1934; and Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, Second Series, 1926 — all published by the Theosophical Publishing House in Madras, India.

Ransom, Josephine. The Seventy-fifth Anniversary Book.
Ransom, Josephine. A Short History of the Theosophical Society.
Theosophist, December 1975 (Jinarajadasa centenary number).

Philip Sydney Harris


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